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What Critics Are Saying About The Orville

Reviews are in for Seth MacFarlane's comedy sci-fi series The Orville, and things aren't looking good. 

Billed as a Star Trek spoof that highlights the optimistic side of the genre that's taken a darker turn in recent years, The Orville follows a crew of space-faring humans and galactic creatures as they journey through the stars, resolve everyday workplace issues, push through difficult but thrilling challenges, and make a few raunchy jokes along the way. (It is a MacFarlane-created show, after all.) 

The Orville stars MacFarlane as Planetary Union officer Ed Mercer, Adrienne Palicki (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as Mercer's ex-wife Kelly Grayson, Scott Grimes (Justified) as Mercer's best friend Gordon Malloy, Penny Johnson (24) as Dr. Claire Finn, Peter Macon (Shameless) as the alien Bortus, and Halston Sage (Goosebumps) as crew member Alara Kitan, and Family Guy alum J. Lee as John LaMarr.

Despite a premise that could have been successful, especially considering its fresh spin on the genre that's almost always inundated with new releases, The Orville failed to deliver for many critics. One in particular was Alyse Wax of ComingSoon.netwho found the cast bland, the tone confusing, and the pacing sloppy. 

"The show doesn't know what it wants to be. It feels like it should be a sitcom, but the hour-long format doesn't support much comedy. There were numerous scenes that felt like they dragged on, just because they needed to fill time. Or there would be repetitive scenes," Wax wrote. "The show attempts to be a romantic comedy, but only the most frustrating parts of a rom-com... [and] it doesn't land on a sci-fi level, either."

Deadline's Dominic Patten called The Orville a "purposeless piece of Star Trek fan fiction [that] likely won't strike much gold... in this galaxy or the next," and found contention with its cheap jokes and heavy-handed commentary on social themes. "The Orville is nowhere near the comedy Fox is marketing the one-hour show as, and it's not much of a drama either. From its adulterous opening scene with a blue-skinned alien to creator and lead MacFarlane as Captain Ed Mercer of the USS Orville and Adrianne Palicki as his ex-wife and now First Officer Commander Kelly Grayson, the series is a mess from its Jon Favreau-directed pilot onward.

Collider's Chris Cabin held nothing back when he stamped the show as an "egregious Star Trek ripoff" that "constantly feels uncertain if it wants to be taken seriously or not" and carries with it a "truly breathtaking lack of creativity." Chief Television Critic at Variety Maureen Ryan felt much the same, writing that "an air of self-congratulation" hangs over one MacFarlane-written episode, as if he "couldn't get over his awe at his own bravery in engaging with a difficult, complex topic." For Ryan, the show's attempt at tackling serious topics "does not connect, and the end result is disastrous" and even tone-deaf.

On the flip side, Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter looked at The Orville as a "reminder that Seth MacFarlane is also the devoted geek," noting it as "the work of a fan of Star Trek trying to make a Star Trek show, without any of that pesky darkness or edginess modern audiences might expect." Granted, Fienberg wrote that the series doesn't show "good or smartly articulated allegory" in an early episode, but felt as though it displayed "the kind of social issue–oriented storytelling that Star Trek shows have always attempted to do."

The Orville currently sits at a 40 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with two positive and three negative reviews, including some not mentioned in this article. The series is set for a two-night premiere on Sunday, September 10 and Sunday, September 17, with regular broadcasting beginning on September 21.